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Thread: CD/DVD drive for retro usage

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    Samsung SH-S203D

    Type: SATA dvd burner

    Results: BAD FOR RETRO

    The SH-S203D is a relatively old burner from 2007, the build quality of the drive is bad. The drive will die if you let it on your shelf for a few years, then you have to relube everything, and clean or modify the belt mechanism to kick it back to the life. It took me several hours to bring this drive back to the life.

    CD-R reading: Reading the CD-s will happen at 48x which makes it non-ideal for retro usage. The drive is a bit loud.

    CD-RW reading: Without upgrading to the latest firmware, it will just simply refuse to read various CD-RW-s, such as some vintage philips cd rw-s. After the upgrade is done, it will read them fine.

    CD-R writing: the smallest available CD write speed is 16x which will not be ideal for vintage hardware, even my relatively more modern drives needed a little bit of thinkering when reading the CD-s burned by this.

    CD-RW writing: The smallest speed it offered was 10x, the philips rw disc written in this was totally unreadable in EVERY drive, including the samsung drive itself.

    -DVD reading: reading the dvd-s are very fast, the documentation says its 16x. I have measured 17-18 MByte /sec read access from this drive. Indeed, if the disc reading speed would be the focal point then this drive would probably win the comparison so far...

    -DVD-R writing: in theory, the drive supports 20x DVD burning speed, i havent tested dvd writing yet, i will post those results later.

    -DVD+RW writing: The drive totally failed to write the dvd+rw discs, the data was unacessible and the disc needed multiple hours of trial and error to pull it back to life in another drives, almost permanently damaging my fujifilm dvd+rw disc.

    Summary: This is a very bad drive. It will be fine for a regular user of course, but it will be useless for any techie, or any sort of retro.

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    Revoking recommendation of TEAC CD-W54E

    I made a positive review about the TEAC CD-W54E 4x cd writer. Mistakenly. I will explain how this was possible, and why this isnt a good drive.
    About two decade ago, i had a burner with the apperance similar to the CD-W54E, but it was a different drive. I didnt realized it for a while. That drive had a good build, however now i realize that it was only a 1x burner, and when it burned the discs, the write led was red. On the teac, both led is green. I have realized my mistake today, when i have disassembled the teac drive.

    The TEAC drive suddenly stopped working properly. It didnt wanted to eject the tray, the mechanism got clogged for some reason. I have attempted to repair it. When disassembling the drive, the internals was different than what i have expected. When i made the review, i tought the internals of this drive is the same as the mistical burner from two decade ago which i had, which was very simple to maintain, but it turned out that this is a totally different drive. The tray mechanism of CD-W54E artifically designed to fail, this is one of the crappiest drives i have ever seen! For some reason, there is a belt system which spins various overengineered gears, and the belt got lose somehow. The belt was not able to eject the tray even after i have oiled the internals a bit, and ever after i have applied some alcohol to it. Each attempt just made the drive shittier. The belt is hidden in a foxhole, basically you have to take apart the whole mechanism to access it, however you cant do this without potentially destroying the drive. The belt is so hidden that even removing it with a needle is impossible, not yet even speaking about putting it back. After a stronger accident movement, i have ripped something, and the tray logic slipped out of its function, trying to push forward the tray even at the first centimeters of the tray was still open, after two hours of despearte attempts to still fix the tray mechanism, i accidentally dropped drips of superglue into the gearing system, essencially destroying the drive.

    The drive was engineered to fail, and INTENTIONALLY designed to not allow any repairs.

    If you use this drive, it will fail after a few usage, and you will not be able to repair it. I dont recommend you to buy this drive.

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    BENQ BW1620 DVD burner


    The BENQ BW1620 is one of the members of the first-generation CAV burners from 2004. The drive is heavy, the hardware quality is nice, and its very silent. The drive is ****ed up by the total professional inadequacy of the firmware builders - and its stays bad like that even if you flash the newest version.

    -DVD-R burning: The drive will only let you write with the maximal speed the firmware offers to you. Despite of supporting various write speeds for a medium (for example 16x, 8x, 4x, 2.4x) according to the firmware and diagnostic tools, it will only allow you to burn at 16x no matter what you do. This will potentially kill every DVD you insert into it. You tought its impossible to set the booktype on DVD-R? Dont worry, this drive does it for you! Especially if you insert various type of DVD-R and do a multisession writing (e.g. every time you REALLY dont want to set the booktype) and kills every possibility to burn the medium on every other drive as well. The forced 16x burning speed produces unreadable discs, even itself cant read them back, vintage stuff cant even detect if a DVD is inserted, if its written with this.

    -CD-R burning: The same bug which forces you to burn at 40x, the CD-s burned with 40x will be unreadable in older LG drives as well.

    It seems, not. You have to hack the firmware and remove every tempo above 4x (for DVD-s) to be able to produce discs that are even readable somewhere...

    -CD+RW: it actually supports speed selection for CD-RW, it allows you to burn at 4x and 10x. However, burning at 4x will result in a CD-RW that was not readable in anything else than a laptop NEC dvd burner.

    -DVD+RW: it burner the DVD+RW properly.

    Despite the drive is advertised to read at high speeds, it LUCKILY wont spin the discs too fast:
    DVD: the drive is a good reader, 5-7 mbyte/sec tempo which translates to a steady 8x spin.
    CD: the CD-s are being read at about 24 or 32x, the drive is relatively silent.
    These read speeds are just around the ,,i expode'' vs ,,i dont explode'' speed range, but the drive is very silent so its probably a good choice for a reader.

    The LED will flash with red color when you burn a DVD, which is a very cool feature! However you will probably never burn a DVD with this, unless you hack the firmware. Which i didn't do just yet. I dont think i will use this drive to actually burn DVD-s, as i burn yearly maybe 2-3 piece (after all, we are in 2020), but IF i will have to, i am going to remove every speed above 4x with MediaCodeSpeedEdit so the drive will be usable as a burner, hopefully.

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    LG GSA 4163B

    Type: IDE DVD burner


    This is a CAV-optimized burner from LG, despite of looking like their old CLV based solutions...

    -It can burn DVD-s at 2,4x and 4x as well, however i am not sure how REAL that CLV speed will be.

    I have disassembled the drive and it seems like they have skipped integrating half of the PCB compared to early models. The drive is really lightweight compared to the old ones. I dont think this is capable of true CLV burning.

    -It can't burn CD-RW-s at 8x, so it will not be able to burn vintage CD-RW-s.

    -It can burn CD-s even at 4x, but i am not sure how real CLV can do while doing it.

    DVD and CD read: the 40x cd read and the 16x DVD read is notably louder than old LG models, probably way above the ,,i explode'' level. CD-s and DVD-s burned with this was generally readable in other modern stuffs, but in overall, this drive has certainly too new and too fast to offer usable compatibility with vintage stuff.
    Last edited by Geri; September 20th, 2020 at 02:07 PM.

  5. Default

    LG GSA-4120B

    Type: IDE DVD burner

    Outside, it looks similarly to 4082b and 4081b. The drive still uses a full-sized PCB with a more CLV-ish build up. However, the drive has extremely cheap build quality, LG started to cut the parts from the drive from milimeter to milimeter, with a very weak belt mechanism which is probably one of the worst ones i have seen.

    The drive dies at several ways, the laser degrades, and it stops reading and burning DVD-s, which is also happened to my drive, so i was only able to test with CD-s.

    CD-R: Old burning speeds were present, such as 4x, and i was able to successfully burn them, and read them back on some vintage apparatus (but didnt tested it on truely vintage stuff).
    CD-RW: Not tested, but probably it will have no 8x option for vintage CD-RW

    Too fast reading (40x for CD) which is above the ,,i blow up to your face'' speed rating.

    Longlivety: the drive have several construction failures from the laser head to door mechanism, the drive will just die. Avoid this model.

    Disk detection: it detects discs just as slow as the vintage 4082b but it cant achieve any from the special abilities of the popular predecessor.

    Not recommended.

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    Sony Optiarc 7261s
    Type: SATA DVD burner


    This is a 24x DVD burner for the SATA interface, manufactured in 2011. The cheap budget drive has an overally cheap quality, prone to stuck tray and hectic operation.

    DVD-R: This drive can burn DVD from 4x to 24x, i did the test burning at 4x which was succesfull.
    DVD+RW: This drive is modern enough to handle DVD+RW discs.

    CD-RW: This drive is not capable of burning vintage CD-RW properly (such as Philips brand discs).
    CD-R: This drive CAN NOT BURN vintage discs properly. Attempts to burn older CD-R will fail with various random errors, attempting to burn multisession CD (which you have previously written with vintage burners) with this drive, will result in an inevitable failure of the CD and later on nothing will be able to burn to the CD once it is failed.

    CD: too fast spinning, loud drive
    DVD: a 16x DVD read which translates to loud read noises, and 15 Mbyte/sec or bigger reading times. At least, sometimes. Other times, it reads the discs slowly at 2x-4x-ish tempo with a 4 MByte/sec read speed.

    This drive has issues when reading some vintage DVD brands, such as old Maxell DVD-R (the 8x max models), basically unable to read them from certain parts of the disc.

    The drive is prone for dying door mechanism, even if the belt is good enough and it does not jumps through, some design fail - which probably results that the lubrication becoming mushy in places and prevents the tray to properly operate. This is not a good drive, i dont recommend it for retro purposes.

    (test was done with 1.03 firmware)
    Last edited by Geri; October 10th, 2020 at 01:34 PM.

  7. Default

    HP E118405
    Type: IDE CD burner


    The HP E118405 and its clones are Hungarian cd burners made in the early 2000's, the Hungarian plant manufactured several identical drives with different names. For example the HP E118405 was one, the another ones are for example the Philips PCRW804 which are minimally different (or maybe they just have different face plates) but several other branded models also exists, they are all manufactured in the same plant.

    Confusing informations say these drives are 4x/4x/32x, or 6x/4x/32x, or 8x/4x/32x drives, but in reality, these are 8x/4x/32x drives.

    Putting the CD in: The door of the CD burner opens downwards, and it spits out the tray like an alien mouth. The read head makes strange munching noises due to a strange gear based CD burn head, thats normal.
    Reading: The drive is advertised to be a 32x reader, but in reality its probably 36x or even faster. The reading times easily exceeding 10 minutes.
    Multisession reading: The drive is unable to read most of the multisession cds if they were written in different drives.

    Burning CD-R: The drive offers 1x 2x 4x and 8x burning speed for a CD. Multisession burning - similarly to reading - fails. The drive generates coasters, if the CD was multisessioned with other drive previously (even if it was gently written by a clv burner). This drive is very incompatible, it generated coaster from my vintage sony cd-r, killing a backup cd.

    Burning CD-RW: The drive was unable to detect any of my CD-RW. In fact, after inserting the CD-RW, the drive is crashed. The computer had to be rebooted to get the CD out, otherwise it refused to eject it. After the reboot, the quick press on the tray freed up the RW.

    Conclusion: This drive is not recommended for any retro purpose, unless you want to kill your discs. This drive is a good present for a retro collector you really don't like.
    Other interesting notices: The drive will light up red on the read light if you eject it. It blinks green when it reads. If it burns, the burn led will lit up in red color, and the read led will blink in green.
    Last edited by Geri; October 19th, 2020 at 12:15 PM.

  8. #58
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Blog Entries


    On a closely-related topic, I note that my DVDs burned using XP from a decade ago now cause Windows 7 to gag claiming corruption. Reading these on a DOS machine using MSCDEX as a driver works fine. Don't know what that's about. The drive itself doesn't seem to matter.

  9. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck(G) View Post
    On a closely-related topic, I note that my DVDs burned using XP from a decade ago now cause Windows 7 to gag claiming corruption. Reading these on a DOS machine using MSCDEX as a driver works fine. Don't know what that's about. The drive itself doesn't seem to matter.
    You ruled out hardware problems? Cables, dirty connectors? Newer discs read well in that drive?

    I have experienced a similar phenomenon with multiple LG drives and original (non burned CD-ROM) discs from the early 90s.
    Discs were not reading, or were inaccessible (such as original Microsoft CD with Win3.1 installer and so on). I tought the CDs are damaged, till i put them into a different brand of drive where they read without any problem.

  10. #60
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Blog Entries


    Yes--multiboot systems, so I could boot DOS on the same system. Quite interesting. Later Win7-burned DVDs work fine.


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